A Cherry Picker’s Diary

(Sigh. I know I’m taking a big risk by posting things like this. But the title of the blog does warn you that I’m an idiot, and I have a big mouth. I might just be a glutton for punishment too. We’ll find out soon enough. But I intend to let people know that I have controversial positions.

EDIT: I have made certain claims here, and I am constantly re-examining them. Like anything, I should never stop questioning, probing for better understanding. The best thing anyone can do for me when they read it is challenge it. Ask me the right questions, make me think about what I’ve said and what you have to say.)

~*~

A Cherry Picker’s Diary

I am a cherry picker. I am probably the biggest cherry picker of all, if I follow the definition used by atheists and anti-theists, because I have a spiritual belief that uses the Bible as a reference. But while I refer to things in this book, what I am picking from is life in general.

The primary assertion I will make is that my belief is a form of Christian philosophy. It is different in many ways from traditional Christian belief and [I have removed this statement in the interest of promoting rational discourse] I am not so sure I want that identification.

As a philosophy, it has what I think is a strong linguistic component, and it is not “religious” in the conventional sense. Some atheists have remarked that I am religious by virtue of my spiritual belief; I say “religion” has connotations today that do not apply to me or my life. Any church or no church is fine with me (as long as the members of a church are reasonably respectful to me and my belief). All too often, the dogma of a church turns me away.

Atheists and anti-theists disagree vehemently with fundamentalist Christians, as they should, but take the position that a fundamentalist view of the Bible is a more honest interpretation. The “cherry picker’s” approach, that of a moderate or liberal Christian, is more hypocritical, and more dangerous. I don’t know how right they are about cherry pickers.

They are right that a fundamentalist approach is more honest. However, this is only because the premise of their belief, and the belief of the moderates, is that the Bible is the “True and Revealed Word of God.” I will question this statement, even as someone who has chosen to believe the essence of the words of Jesus Christ. It implies that this one book is the only source of wisdom, the only source of truth; all others are not only inferior, they are lies.

And yet, the Bible has been shown to be the source of quite a few untruths, as many in the scientific community will agree. I take this view: it is a compilation of many books by many different authors concerning two different religions, one inspired by the other. They are not all the books written on these subjects. They are merely the ones chosen by a particular group of men to represent what constituted their belief at that time. A council of cherry pickers, in fact, and a historically significant one.

King James followed this up later (for his own selfish reasons) with his cherry-picked compilation. So even fundamentalists apply their “honest” approach to a cherry picker’s book.

The Bible cannot be the “True and Revealed Word.” I still use it as a guide to what I believe is wisdom (but not necessarily “truth”): the teachings of a perhaps misunderstood revolutionary and philosopher, Jesus Christ. It is only a guide, one among many (albeit the one that first turned my attention to the words of Christ), because I have reason to suspect the words are not recorded accurately, but the essence of his philosophy can still be discerned from the gospels.

Words

Words (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

God’s Word cannot be contained in a book, and that is because everything is the Word. It is so vast it must burst through the seams of a physical world; it can be anywhere, in anything. And it is most clearly inscribed in human hearts than anywhere else.

The word “heart” only refers to a particular organ in science. If we take it in the artistic sense to mean “spirit,” the location of which is irrelevant, and understand that it cannot be verified scientifically, then it means the essence of each of us as individuals. I am not sure there is an essence to individuals, however, and will be more inclined to think it is the essence of everything, collectively.

My position is that Jesus Christ does not have to be God, does not need to have performed miracles. According to many, he probably did not; there is no evidence. It doesn’t matter. He walked among many people, teaching a controversial and quite rebellious philosophy, risking the anger and hostility of the Temple priests. And the most significant thing he told people was to love one another.

A problem many people will have are statements like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believeth in him shall have everlasting life.” Since I am a cherry picker, how should I pick this? I have already acknowledged that I cannot trust the accuracy of the Bible. Something might have been lost in the translation; it may have been translated (or authored) by someone with specific biases (and probably was).

To me, this is a much more honest view of the Bible, and it focuses on the philosophy of love at the root of Christianity. From this view, I can conceive of a new (cherry picker’s) interpretation for John 3:16: God’s Word is everywhere but it may have been most clear to humankind through the teachings of Jesus Christ; if we believe what Jesus taught, and live our lives accordingly, we will live forever (or at least leave a lasting, positive impression on those we love). The thing is, someone might live this way without believing in Christ, the Trinity, the Bible, Hellfire, Adam and Eve; they can live this way without believing in any god or religion. Despite the wording of the text, and others like it, the belief in Christ himself, or his resurrection, is not a requirement for “salvation.” It does not give the Christian exclusive claim to morality, either.

Of course, is there even a need for salvation? I believe there is; we desperately need to be saved from ourselves. And a philosophy of love might just have the potential to do that, in more than one way, so long as we actually live it (to the best of our limited, human capabilities) and not just pretend we do.

My faith is in the essence of my philosophy, which is based on the gospel of John, chapter one, verse one and verse fourteen. This means that I do attribute divinity to Jesus Christ, at least in the sense that he opened humanity’s eyes and ears to the Word (or tried to) and because everything is divine. Also, while many of Paul’s words strike me as reactionary and regressive, I am willing to accept his assertion that God is love, because that is the God I believe Jesus introduced to the theistic argument. I will agree with Paul’s definition of faith, too: “Evidence of things unseen, knowledge of things unknowable.”

This is purely subjective “evidence” and “knowledge”; it is weak in comparison to empirical data and interpretation based on rigorous tests and peer review. There could be a subjective test to determine if a belief and the actions thereof are compatible with the idea of a loving God. However, this kind of test only has subjective meaning relative to a subjective premise. It is meaningless in a scientific context; any kind of God, let alone a loving one, is extremely unlikely. My own experience of life is enough to make me wonder where this mysterious omnipresent being is hiding.

So I balance my faith with evidence-based belief, and I make sure I fully understand my subjective reasons for believing. The reasons for my faith are love and hope: I love, and I love very much; therefore I hope my love will never end. I have objective reasons for evidence-based belief and for tempering faith-based belief with it. Although the truth is that it goes both ways. My acceptance of natural philosophy is balanced by my understanding that some things might not have physical substance and cannot be measured or explained by empirical means. In fact, something might exist “outside” or “beyond” the universe.

Whatever it is, if we claim it created everything, some observation of the universe can help us infer a few characteristics of this being, and it doesn’t look good. If it is perfect and all-powerful, God should have been able to give us free will and maintain our perfection, the perfection of everything, for eternity. All the “mystery” about an “unknowable plan” is a tactic to suppress the questioning mind, to discourage free-thinking.

We can use the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace to illustrate. God made the angels before creating humans but he did not give them free will. If angels do not have free will, Lucifer could not have rebelled unless God told him to. What does this story mean? Why would God order Lucifer, the “shining one,” the “morning star,” to rebel and still hold him accountable for it? What purpose could this possibly serve? The only logical conclusions, if God is love, are that it must be either a metaphor to promote some deeper understanding of reality or a lie. Even for a metaphor, it is deliberately confusing.

If a divine being exists, then it cannot be perfect, and the only thing really “divine” about it is the spark of life, its consciousness, and perhaps its potential to exist outside of time. God’s existence would have to be analogous to the principles of quantum physics, in a sense (which doesn’t prove anything, so please do not mistake me). The universe was not always here, but the conditions necessary for a universe to bloom were. The conditions necessary for God’s consciousness to “awaken” have always existed, and that divine consciousness could be evolving, growing, transforming into something else, something I hope is better. Although, if it has a plan, we might be able to find indications of it by continuing to observe nature and study science.

For the subjective reasons I spoke of, I have decided to believe in God and that God is love. I believe that love will see us through the hell we have made for ourselves and the indifference of nature.

I can already hear many Christians shouting, “Blasphemer! Heretic! How can you say the Bible isn’t the Word of God and belief in the resurrection isn’t necessary for salvation?” The first question I have already answered. The second also relies in part on the infallibility of the Bible. However, the resurrection and, by extension, the “eyewitness accounts” of the ascension are presented as “evidence” that God will do the same for me. My spiritual belief does not need evidence.

Significantly, Jesus’ rebellion was against the religious leaders of his people, and not so much the Roman invaders. Those who were most angered by him were the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the law passed down through Moses. Perhaps this was the only way to get anyone at all to take him seriously. Maybe God did leave hints of the new way to come through people like Isaiah and Daniel, too. Jesus did not build on an old religion, however; he introduced a new–a revolutionary–understanding of the spiritual life.

Condemning others based on our belief is unnecessary and wrong (and this is relative, because there are some judgments we can make); conversion is unnecessary and offensive. It also contradicts belief in a loving God. People do not need to be threatened with Hellfire or promised a Heavenly reward to have morals. The only “witness” we need to present is a life of love and respect for others. Anyone who does so lives according to the Word, even if they do not see it that way; although the sad truth is too many do not.

This philosophy is “Christian” in its estimation and esteem for the teachings of Jesus Christ, with or without a supernatural context. But the supernatural is real; it exists in the form of “the Word,” which is the foundation for everything.

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3 thoughts on “A Cherry Picker’s Diary

  1. True that “so many have used Christianity to justify their crimes”, but then every evil man has used any kind of moral cover available to cover their own crimes, and the powerful have always used whatever excuse sticks.

    It’s ironic because throughout history also, it has been Bible-believing Christians that have been the major victims of the crimes of Christians, the latter being nothing more than identity thieves, claiming credentials from the one who condemns their evil deeds.

    Very ironic too, to say “cherry-pickers”, because atheists are the biggest cherry-pickers of the verses in the Bible they use to try to contradict it, while they ignore the ones that contradict them.

    There are plenty of people who claim any number of things. There are people who say they answer to God, but act like they do not have a God to answer to. It is an idiot’s logic to say that proves there is no God to answer to.

    God is real, he will not be mocked, and Lenin suffered in this life no doubt knowing what Stalin would do to his other colleagues, Stalin suffered thinking that everybody was out to kill him to take over like he did, men reap what they sow.

  2. Yes, I agree: it is not the belief that should be held accountable, but the people who commit the crimes. I said once on the Richard Dawkins web site that “Just because I bash you over the head with a wrench, it doesn’t make the wrench evil; it makes *me* evil.”

    Now what you say about “Bible-believing Christians” being the “major victims” of crimes committed in the name of Christianity gives me pause. In many cases, that is true. Before they were finally accepted by the Catholic church, the Franciscans were treated as heretics, for example. I’ve heard that a fair number of Franciscans were burned at the stake too.

    However, I happen to know that Christians were not the only victims; I am inclined to think the persecution had spread a lot wider than that. The Inquisition was ruthless and insidious in it’s obsession to convert and to execute people whose beliefs were not the same. The so-called “witches” burned or hanged for their “sins” were often herbalists and midwives, people who did the most good in the community, or believers of indigenous religions (pagans), and sometimes natural philosophers (scientists, or the forerunners of scientists). They persecuted Jews, too. And, right now, “Christians” persecute others and try to push their religion on them, threatening them with damnation. Some even say homosexuals should be executed like murderers. I say a loving God would not permit this, would not condone it, and surely would not command it.

    I have studied the Bible extensively. In my youth I used a Greek interlinear NT and a lexicon to help me study it (OT and NT). It does tend to contradict itself often, and that is only to be expected. And, observable reality contradicts much of it as well, if we take the Bible literally. But there is no contradiction if we acknowledge its fallibility and focus on the teachings of Christ.

    Also, atheists, at least the ones with which I have spoken, do not claim that science “proves” there is no God. They say, in light of the evidence, there *probably* is no God and that is why they decided not to believe. It’s a completely different statement, and it isn’t idiot’s logic. It’s just “evidence-based” belief as opposed to “faith-based”; evidence-based belief is *very* logical.

    I’m doing the opposite; I acknowledged there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence and I decided to believe *anyway*, because that’s what faith is. But yes, they are cherry picker’s, too, even if they will not admit it.

    You could be saying that atheists are mocking God? The way you framed it within the context makes it unclear. It does make me think you are a Bible-believer and you wish to use the Bible to justify your belief. That is fine, of course. You are free to believe what you will. Or you should be. Judging by your blog, some of your political opinions are similar to mine, however (I think…I have to look more); so we both know how quickly our freedoms are disappearing.

    Then you mention Lenin and Stalin. Lenin’s ideas were more democratic than Stalin’s, from what I understand. Stalin was definitely an atheist dictator who ruthlessly suppressed all religion in the U.S.S.R., or tried to anyway. Even though they were not corporatist, their communist experiment became an oligarchy, the same thing that has happened with the American democratic experiment. The paths that led there were different. The kind of government that remains afterward, while one is concerned with profit and the other is not, still boils down to an elite aristocracy.

    I hope you picked up that I was *trying* to be ironic by calling myself a cherry picker?

    Something else ironic…no atheists or anti-theists have dropped in to give us both a what for yet.

  3. (You can read all of Trutherator’s comments on his blog. These were quoted from http://trutherator.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/what-prism-knows-8-metadata-facts-security-government-and/#comments)

    Trutherator: “God promised in his word to preserve it, not one jot or tittle shall pass away till all be fulfilled.”

    It says this in the Bible, but it does not say “My Word will be preserved in this particular compilation of books.” Since it does not actually specify the book, or books, in question, what *other* (non-Biblical) source can you provide that supports your position?

    Trutherator: “The four gospels were authenticated by the ‘signatures’ in blood by their authors -meaning their martyrdoms are strong evidence of their own personal knowledge of the risen Christ, including the ‘doubting Thomas’ in India.”

    It is not physical evidence that survived the ages for us to examine and authenticate it. It is spiritual evidence, in the context of your faith. Although the jury’s still out on the shroud of Turin, since the evidence gathered conflicted (carbon dating indicated its origin around the middle ages; pollen found in the shroud was much older and only comes from one region on Earth).

    Trutherator: “And that’s just for starters. History, archaeology, the forensics science of paleontology, the anthropological principle, the recent discovery by astrophysicists and astronomers that the universe has a physical orientation that appears to center in the neighborhood of the earth, these are also evidences from science.”

    The “anthropological principle” is actually the “anthropomorphic principle” and it is not a theory; it’s a hypothesis (or, at least, a philosophical premise), one we are currently unable to test. It cannot be a theory until it has been rigorously tested and submitted for peer review. And what you refer to as a “recent” discovery isn’t recent. Scientists have been looking at this for a while now. One theory states the universe might be infinite. If the universe is infinite, then it will not matter where you are, it will always look like the center.

    It’s possible the universe bears God’s signature, and one day we might find it. But, as far as I know, the majority of scientists, even some who believe in God, will say it is highly unlikely *in view of the available evidence.* The book, on the other hand, has shown many inconsistencies with respect to observation. If anything, taking it literally has proven to be a costly mistake–historically.

    To me, the gospel is the words of Christ himself. The true Word of God *is* God, which is why it could never be wholly contained within a book. Since Jesus commanded us to love one another, and strongly emphasized it, any action contrary to that principle is immediately suspect. For example:

    God=Love
    Kill the witches=Hate
    God commands us to kill the witches.

    This is an *obvious* contradiction. There is no “internal consistency” between these two statements. So I will keep the love and let go of the hate. These words, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” are actually in the Bible. Let’s look at something said by some Christians that isn’t in the Bible.

    God, who is Love, hates fags.

    No consistency. Completely lacking in it, I would say.

    Now I know what Paul said in his letter to the Romans. He said that homosexuals, along with murderers and all other sinners, are “worthy” of death, because the penalty for any sin, according to the Bible, is the same. Even some Christians teach that God doesn’t hate people; if he hates anything, it is sin.

    And there is no good reason, other than a revised Hebrew text (the P version) to justify making women subservient. I know it is revised from the earlier J version; I learned this in college from an English professor and Jewish scholar. The original version says that God made Adam and Eve *at the same time* and mentions nothing about Adam’s rib. So here we have a clear example of an earlier version that told the story differently.

    You are telling someone who actually knows something about the Bible. And I know something about science. The evidence you present is either subjective and spiritual (a very valid form of evidence, in the context of faith) or it is a misrepresentation of scientific principles.

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